Orecchiette with Spinach and Feta is another one of those simple, 15 minutes to the table, delicious dinners.
Behind the scenes of Orecchiette with Spinach and Feta
Orecchiette with Spinach and Feta is an easy meal that can be on the table in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Lacto-Vegetarian as originally prepared, or add some sliced sausage to make it a more hearty meal. Add a green salad, like this easy Baby Greens Salad with a Light Balsamic Vinaigrette, and dinner is done.
What is Orecchiette?
Orecchiette is a distinctive Puglian type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, which begs the name (orecchio, ear, orecchiette, little ears). They're about ¾ of an inch across, slightly domed, and their centers are thinner than their rims, a characteristic that gives them an interesting texture, soft in the middle, and chewier on the outside edge. I think they work perfectly in this dish because the inside curve holds the sauce, cheese, and added chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers inside so you can enjoy the flavors with each bite.
If you want to make orecchiette from scratch, you will find that, while the basic ingredients are the same as most kinds of pasta, flour, salt, and water, the shape can take some skill to achieve. I generally don't have the time, or the patience, to make homemade pasta and find that overall I can't tell the difference between fresh and dried, but if you want to make your own, go for it!
I think the best substitution for orecchiette would be medium shells.
So boxed or bagged?
Orecchiette with Spinach and Feta is a flavorful combination of simple ingredients. The orecchiette pasta, a simple marinara, either homemade or for extra ease, use your favorite jarred sauce; along with some flavor embellishment...sun-dried tomato, sliced kalamata or Italian cured olives, capers...tossed together with fresh spinach and then topped with feta cheese that starts to melt creamily over it all. Very yummy. Any of the embellishments can be omitted if you don't have or don't like them, but really, what's not to like?
As a variation, I wanted to add some sausage to the plate so I got some al Fresco chicken sausage made with feta cheese and spinach.
Perfect match, right?
I really like the al-Fresco products. They are very low in fat, have great flavor, and are already cooked, so all you have to do is heat them up. The sausage was a nice addition. If you choose to add sausage and can't find the Al Fresco brand, you could use a mild Italian sausage in its place, preferably made with lean turkey or chicken. I personally wouldn't use an apple chicken sausage as I think it would be too sweet and would not compliment the other flavors.
A simple grilled and sliced chicken breast would also work. But the idea remains, making it a simple quick weeknight meal, that the whole family will love.
Orecchiette with Spinach and Feta
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta cooked according to package directions
- 1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce, or the same amount of homemade
- 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
- ¼ cup kalamata olives sliced
- 1 8-ounce bag baby spinach
- 4 ounces feta cheese crumbled
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- Heat the marinara sauce in a large skillet. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and capers, if using; simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the cooked orecchiette along with the spinach. Simmer until the pasta is heated through and the spinach has just wilted about 3 - 4 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, taste and adjust seasonings (remember, the feta cheese will add saltiness to the dish). Place in large heated bowls; top with crumbled feta. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.